Often I investigate as carefully as I can and reflect that of all things which can either be perceived by the mind or surpass its concentrated efforts the first and highest division is into what has and what does not have being.
- Eriugena, Periphyseon (Irish, 9th century)
And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with.
- Ecclesiastes 1.13
An unhappy translation that "unhappy." The Hebrew is more accurately, "difficult." Study and learning are difficult, particularly when you take as your focus all things that exist under the heavens - or all things that have or do not have being, as Eriugena put it.
If Columbanus is the first great Irish scholar of the Celtic period, Eriugena is the last. His focus was more philosophical than that of Columbanus, and he is not nearly as easy to comprehend. Yet his scholarly work shows powerful concentration, earnest devotion to truth, and a depth of piety characteristic of all who pursue learning unto the glory of God.
For all his devotion to study, Eriugena was not without a sense of humor. When he first came to the court of Charlemagne, the king seated him across a table from himself. Thinking to impress and perhaps to humble his new charge, the king asked, in Latin, if Eriugena could define the difference between an Irishman ("scotus") and a drunkard ("sotus"). Without hesitating, Eriugena answered, "tanta tabula" - "only a table."
Study is hard work, it's true. But those who learn to delight in studying the works of God will find them great and full of splendor and majesty, no matter what they may be (Ps. 111.2, 3). Christians should be the best students of everything, as much as God entrusts to our care and concern. And we must learn to do so like Columbanus and Eriugena - with a song of praise in our hearts and a bit of a twinkle in our eye.
Today in ReVision: In the beginning - Science may once again be catching up with the Scriptures.
Kingdom Civics: The Apostles' Creed - Here is the preamble to all subsequent making of creeds and confessions in Christian history.
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